President Obama has tapped San Francisco’s own Dr. Grant Colfax to head the Office of National AIDS Policy in Washington, D.C. Dr. Colfax is the former director of HIV prevention and research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
In an interview on KQED’s Forum earlier this week Dr. Colfax was optimistic about a new phase in the fight against HIV. “We’ve had some striking scientific advances in prevention and care. We really are for the first time talking about an HIV-free generation,” Dr. Colfax told Forum’s Michael Krasny. To achieve that future Dr. Colfax said HIV testing should become a regular part of primary health care. “HIV testing needs to be part of routine primary care and we need to break down the stigma that is still unfortunately associated with HIV testing,” he emphasized.
People who are at higher risk of HIV infection like gay men, people with HIV-positive partners and people with many sexual partners should get tested often. San Francisco recommends gay men get tested every 6 months, especially because gay men represent almost two-thirds of new HIV cases domestically. African-American women are also much more likely to be infected for reasons that are still unclear to researchers.
Dr. Colfax focuses on early identification and treatment because research shows that treatment can help prevent new cases of HIV. “We know what the right things to do are. But now the question is how do we come together as a scientific community and put the facts to work here,” Dr. Colfax said.
Dr. Colfax also defended the Obama administration’s track record and commitment to HIV prevention and treatment both internationally and domestically. “Even in these tight budget times we are investing in the HIV epidemic. The president’s budget includes an $800 million increase in funding,” he said. One of the Obama administration’s biggest achievements has been developing the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy — even if it comes 30 years into the epidemic.“We really do have a blueprint now to move forward as a nation in having an effect on the epidemic,” Dr. Colfax said confidently. The three principal goals of the strategy are:
- Reduce HIV incidences,
- Improve access to care and health outcomes for people with HIV,
- Reduce HIV-related disparities
Dr. Colfax believes his work with the San Francisco Public Health Department will serve him well as he makes his debut on the national stage.